From time to time, the resident physician at Google headquarters weighs in with her thoughts on healthy living. This is not medical advice, and you should check with your own doctor before pursuing any particular course of action.

How many of you resolved that in the New Year you'd start a cholesterol- or blood pressure-reducing medication, or perhaps plan to spend a few days in the coronary care unit? My guess is that not too many of you -- but you might end up needing this sort of help rather than staying resolute to intended lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Let's face it, it's tough to get motivated. It's so much easier to take the pills or have the tests done -- later.

So to help motivate you now, here's a short review of the findings of a recent study by J. A. Iestra that appears in a 2005 issue of the journal Circulation. It's called "Effect Size Estimates of Lifestyle and Dietary Changes on All Cause Mortality in Coronary Artery Disease Patients." Iestra's data showed notable reductions in coronary artery disease -- and mortality -- when patients make these changes:
  • Diet change: 40-45%
  • Smoking cessation: 35-50%
  • ACE inhibitors (for blood pressure): 26%
  • More physical activity: 20-30%
  • Beta blockers (for blood pressure): 23%
  • Statins (for cholesterol): 21%
  • Aspirin: 18%
  • Moderate alcohol: 14-20%
The reduction in mortality from coronary artery disease is the same if not better with lifestyle or dietary changes as it is with medications. Other things to consider (but not analyzed in this study) are that lifestyle changes, such as more physical activity, don't produce bad side effects -- well, maybe a little sweat, but all medications may have some side effects. And certainly the cost of exercise vs. medication is lower too. So whether you're a Googler or not, let's all be visionaries not just about our work, but about our own bodies and souls.